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Asbestos Surveys in the Rail Sector

SOCOTEC UK explain the challenges surrounding the commissioning of asbestos surveys for Britain’s ageing rail infrastructure.

The age of many depots, stations and associated buildings and structures that are part of the UK’s railway network presents a likelihood that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) will be encountered in one of their many forms, and means structures undergoing renovation, repair or demolition will require an asbestos survey in advance of any planned work. But what are the different types of asbestos survey and how can you ascertain which type is best suited to your organisation’s requirements?

What is the purpose of an asbestos survey?

Asbestos surveys provide accurate information on the location, amount and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) present on any given premises. This information can be used to prepare a record of the location of the fibrous mineral – also known as an asbestos register – which will help to identify which ACMs are required for removal, as well as the ongoing management and compliance of asbestos within the property.

Surveys are generally carried out using a range of sampling techniques, with the general presumption that asbestos is present across all parts of the property. Furthermore, intrusive techniques are often implemented in order to determine whether asbestos is located in hidden and/or inaccessible locations.

What types of asbestos surveys are there?

Management surveys

A management survey is the standard type of survey carried out to ensure the continued management of asbestos on the premises when under normal occupation/use. The duty holder is required to identify the location and condition of asbestos in the premises to manage the risks from ACMs.

Undertaken by a qualified surveyor, management surveys are designed to identify and describe (as far as is reasonably practicable) the presence of all suspect asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that people may come into contact with under normal occupancy of a building. They are also used to assess the condition and allow the management of asbestos at the premises, whether this is to remove, encapsulate or inspect at regular intervals.

Refurbishment/demolition surveys

Refurbishment/demolition (or R&D) surveys are required where premises (or parts of the premises) require upgrading, renovation or demolition work. More intrusive than management surveys, they are used to determine and describe all ACMs in areas where these works are required (as far as is reasonably practicable).

These surveys are undertaken against an agreed scope of survey to meet the requirements of the planned refurbishment or demolition. The process involves a qualified surveyor locating and identifying all ACMs prior to refurbishment by intrusive access and the sampling of suspect materials. A decision is then taken to remove the ACMs if they are likely to be disturbed by the refurbishment or demolition works. Given its intrusive nature, R&D surveys should only be carried out in the vacant specific areas where the work is being planned.

Is there any existing legislation and/or guidance in place regarding asbestos surveys?

In the UK, it is a legal requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 to prevent the uncontrolled disturbance of ACMs prior to any major refurbishment or demolition work taking place on any given structure that was built/refurbished before the year 2000. As part of Regulation 5 (identification of the presence of asbestos), the duty holder must carry out a ‘suitable and sufficient assessment’ to establish whether asbestos is present within the building prior to any refurbishment, maintenance or demolition work liable to disturb asbestos – in other words, through the implementation of refurbishment and demolition surveys.

Further, the HSG264 survey guide sets out how to survey non-domestic premises for ACMs, distinguishing between the two main types of asbestos surveys and ascertaining which one a duty holder will require. The methodology outlined in HSG264 can be referred to when carrying out surveys and also details how to report on and present the results. HSG264 is aimed at individuals who are carrying out asbestos surveys and those with specific responsibilities for managing asbestos risk in non-domestic premises under regulation 4 of CAR 2012.

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The SOCOTEC Group is a leading player in testing, inspection and certification (TIC). We ensure the integrity and performance of assets and people’s safety, helping clients around the world manage risk and improve performance throughout their projects’ lifecycles. The SOCOTEC Group operates in 25 countries on five continents. We provide our services to the same high standards wherever we work, adapting them to match the specific conditions of local markets. Learn more at

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